Yoga Pants: the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse

shocking ankles in Victorian Fashion Joy Makin' MamasVeronica Partridge is only the latest to pile on to the attack on my beloved yoga pants. Although she feels that the plethora of stretchy pant-clad bottoms out there is imperiling her husband’s soul, most critics feel they are “too casual” for people to wear as part of their daily life. There have even been schools that have tried to ban moms from wearing them when they drop their children off in the morning. Implicit in all criticisms of yoga pants is the notion that wearing them is a form of overshare.

I could understand arguing that they are not the most attractive of your available choices of legwear. I can most certainly see saying, for instance, that they are not professional clothing. But after that, I have to say that those arguing that we owe the world a yoga-pantsless experience couldn’t be more wrong. Particularly those who argue that they should be banned because America has gone too, too, TOO casual now that we women wear yoga pants in public. It’s totally on us and our incredibly comfortable pants that are engineered to stay in place, allow us to move quickly and bend in whatever direction our lives demand without letting us down. This piece of poor athletic gear is WHAT IS WRONG WITH AMERICA TODAY, people. Or something like that.

Actually I love my yoga pants. You will pry them from my cold, dead fingers. And YES, I wear them to school drop off without having actually done any yoga today, and YES, sometimes I wear a pair to school pickup, too, and NOPE I may still not have done any yoga. I’m about to confuse you by saying that in actual fact, I DO support a move back to the more formal customs of dress of olden years. Because that is actually an argument in FAVOR of yoga pants. I can hear you saying, “WAIT. What?” from all the way over here, so let me explain.

Don’t tell me my grandmother would never have worn yoga pants in public. Don’t you give me any school dress code prohibiting parents from dropping off their kids in yoga pants. No. My grandmother had yoga pants. Actually, I lie. She WOULD have worn yoga pants, if they had existed. Instead, she had a “housecoat,” which is a longish, zippered bathrobe made to vaguely resemble actual clothing that women used to put on over their night things at butt crack of dawn o’clock when they got up to get EVERYONE else off to work/school/barbershop quartet practice.

housecoat or duster

Yes. Very formal and elegant. Okay, it DOES have buttons, but considering that the whole point of the thing is to hide the fact that she might not actually be wearing anything under it, I’m going to say these are the 1950s equivalent of yoga pants. Except you had to IRON them. Or they were polyester, and nobody wants that. (Yeah… did you ever wonder what the “permanent press” function was for on your dryer? That’s the polyester setting. I’M NOT JOKING.) Also, it DID come with a handy head wrap to make it clear that although everyone could see you still had your curlers in you were embarrassed to be seen in your curlers so you made a token effort to cover them up. So maybe the implied apology for not being presentable is what made this more… presentable? Inherent in everything about this thing is the concept that some early is just TOO EARLY, people, but “can’t even” is still not an option. So Grandma “evened” in her housecoat.

My grandmother’s grandmother ALSO had a garment that was meant to allow her to appear before people at any hour that wasn’t decently late enough to permit her to adjust her stays and petticoats and other assorted folderol. SHE called it a “wrapper,” or a “duster,” which is why that housecoat up there was also sometimes called a duster. Because her regular daytime clothing weighed approximately 18.5 lbs, and nobody has time for that before breakfast. This particular sartorial custom was predicated on the idea that women were more or less completely useless, so obviously it was adopted by women of a certain socio economic status. The housecoat of the middle 20th century and beyond was a much more egalitarian garment, and allowed the wearer to function (and be useful) in society at an hour that was hardly polite.

The march of fashion typically tacitly acknowledges the advances of women’s roles in society, and yoga pants are no exception. Women’s lives continue to get more active, more multifaceted, and, in many ways, more demanding every year. I think it’s entirely fitting that the morning wear of our generation is activewear and a ponytail, instead of a corset and a frilly bathrobe. What is actually leaving our society is not a sense of formality, but an intuitive understanding that there is morning wear, daywear, and evening wear. In fact, all but “evening wear” have slipped out of common use, and that one is now synonymous with “formal wear.” People demanding we return to Polite Society When People Knew How To Dress as a way of asking that we abolish Morning Wear are actually, perversely, advocating a LESS formal society. I realize few of us actually Dress For Dinner most days, but the concept and the concept of Morning Wear go together, if you’ll pardon me, like yoga pants and early AM errands.

Kirkland's Signature Yoga Pants via Flickr Creative commons credit m01229
Soul tempting bargains in every color.

Taking it back even further, great-great-great-great Grandma probably also had some kind of a cover-up garment, or else she slept and worked in the same clothes around the clock. Laundry was cumbersome to do at best- no running water you know- so they kept it to the bare minimum. People had fewer clothes, and they washed the ones they had a great deal less. (Bathing was not really popular, either. Underclothing was meant to keep the comparatively expensive outer clothing from being ruined by filthy human bodies.)  So think about THAT next time you want to get all cranky about my freshly laundered yoga pants. Because I’m telling you- there are some hours of the day that are just too obnoxiously early for crinolines and stays… or buttons. Or zippers. And honestly, sometimes the kids dump apple sauce all over the kitchen floor while I’m combing my hair and grabbing a pair of socks.

So, not only are my yoga pants saving us all from an unremitting sea of polyester, they may actually save my children’s lives from time to time. Mr. Partridge’s soul is just going to have to look out for itself- particularly since it isn’t ACTUALLY my responsibility.

About Meghan G

I like blues, punk, and crime drama. I love having boys, keeping active, and the outdoors. I'm a cat person, but I think dogs should have equal opportunities.

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8 Comments on “Yoga Pants: the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse”

  1. WOW! I can’t believe that people are complaining now about yoga pants! I’m sorry, but women have the choice to wear what they want and when they want! Of course, they are not going to go to the office wearing yoga pants! But, in the morning, trying to get your children ready for the day and school, who cares what you look like when you are dropping your kids off at school! It’s just so ridiculous that it’s actually funny! Thanks for the wonderful read! I appreciate it! Thanks again, Michele 🙂

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